Friday

nicu nightmares

I tend to block out the several weeks my youngest child spent in the NICU. After a totally normal pregnancy (except I felt really tired and sick the whole time), I went into labor three weeks before my due date. He seemed fine at birth, and weighed 7lbs 6 ozs, but about 3 or 4 hours after he was born, one of the nursing aides noticed he seemed a little blue. She called a nurse, who tested his oxygen by sticking a little monitor on his finger. The monitor showed he wasn't getting much oxygen at all.

After that, all hell broke loose.

He was rushed to the NICU from our shared hospital room, and they told me I couldn't see him for the next hour while they ran various tests. I had to wait in my room for the neonatologist to come tell me what was wrong. That hour was among the longest of my life.

The doctor came back in about two hours and told us he had persistent fetal circulation syndrome, a life-threatening pulmonary condition that would require NICU treatment. E. was hospitalized for the next several weeks.

I have to say that this was among the most painful experiences of my entire life. I assumed they would let me sleep there in the NICU, but they wouldn't. We had to leave for an hour evry 6 hours during the nurses' shift change, and there was no place for me to sleep, so eventually, I had to leave the hospital to sleep for a while before coming back to sit next to E. in his little plastic box, covered with en oxygen tent.

Leaving that hospital the first time without our baby was really one of the worst moments of my life. I cried constantly the entire time he was there. Seeing them put an IV in his head and his tiny feet about did me in. We couldn't even touch him for the first week, and there were several days where the doctors told us he might not make it through the night. One nurse told me that even though he was the biggest baby in the NICU at that time, he was the sickest. I was constantly pushing thoughts of leaving the hospital with a dead baby from my mind, but when I slept, I had terrible nightmares that he had died and no one would tell me.

It was also really hard to be away from my older two children when I was at the hospital. J. was only 2 years old at the time and still nursing. She also came down with the worst case of chicken pox I've ever seen the day E. was born. She had pox (or "pops" as she called them) EVERYWHERE, including inside her mouth and in between her toes. She wanted her mama, and I was unable to be at home. My parents and sister and grandmother had to take care of the kids while C. and I were tending to E. in the NICU.

After the first two weeks, E. turned the corner. The day we took him home, healthy, was the best feeling in the world.

Like I said, I really try not to think about the whole experience. It was just too horrible, scary and traumatic. But now that I am pregnant again, I find fears and worries of something happening again bubbling to the surface of my consciousness. Last night I had a very vivid dream that I was back in the NICU with the new baby, who had died, but no one would tell me.

I never did really talk to anyone - like a counselor or other NICU veteran parents - about how mindbending I found this whole experience, but I am thinking now that maybe I should before New Baby makes his/her arrival.

7 comments:

Laura said...

just putting the story down is so healing. i chronicled my son's 132 days in the nicu and put it in a journal for us all. nowadays we look back through it and marvel at how amazing the 4 1/2 months were for our little man and our family.
it's good that you put this down in your journal.
fo some it is healing to talk about it and share it. you can see more at http://www.shareyourstory.org/
and you can also consider supporting research, training and support for families like yours and professionals (like me) who care for babies like your boy and mine. we have a family team in honor of our son, Daniel, who is also a MOD ambassador.
check out Team Daniel:
http://www.walkamerica.org/personal_page.asp?w=683665

dewi said...

What a horrific experience you had after little E's arrival into the world. As the birth is getting closer, it sounds as if you are experiencing some posttraumatic stress symptoms, it would probably be a helpful to talk to someone.

Are you familiar with Dr Gayle Peterson, she has a PhD and has a specialty in birth counseling, she trains other counselors. Perhaps there is someone in Knoxville that took her training or you can work with Gayle directly. http://www.makinghealthyfamilies.com/index.html

dewi said...

What a horrific experience you had after little E's arrival into the world. As the birth is getting closer, it sounds as if you are experiencing some posttraumatic stress symptoms, it would probably be a helpful to talk to someone.

Are you familiar with Dr Gayle Peterson, she has a PhD and has a specialty in birth counseling, she trains other counselors. Perhaps there is someone in Knoxville that took her training or you can work with Gayle directly. http://www.makinghealthyfamilies.com/index.html

cathy said...

NICU memories don't go away. You have faced the tubes and noises. You are stronger and more aware because of it. Talk to your caregivers about your fears. With my last pregnancy, I had a terrible feeling that I had used up all my blessings and my midwife kept me sane and calm.

Anonymous said...

Your anxiety will increase if you continue to try to not think about the experience. You need to talk to a therapist.

Anonymous said...

If you feel you need to talk to someone, then that's because you should. No big deal. Go with your instincts.


Marta from Lisbon

Tracy said...

Hey Katie, it's Tracy Jones here. We were very close at the time--that was right before we left Knoxville--and I still get the shivers when I think about E. in the NICU. He was such a different baby from Henry or Jane or my own, Dylan (16 next month, yikes!). E. was such an outgoing, "how are you?" fellow, right from birth, that it was hard to accept that he was in trouble. I really enjoy seeing the kids on your blog, and I just found some pix of Dylan, so I'll reciprocate in an e-mail. I had forgotten about Jane and the chicken pops--thanks for the memories! I also still tell Henry stories regularly--he'd be mortified to know, I'm sure, as mine is mortified by young child stories! Hugs to all and all the best with your new one, Tracy (still the mom of an only!)